A prima facie view of Dallas might not present its electronic music scene as popular as those on the East and West coasts, but one does lurk within the city, expanding with Texas Recordings Underground, a record label founded by DJ-producer Gavin Guthrie in 2016. Abbreviated as TRU, the label releases music exclusively from Texas-based producers whose talents, Guthrie thinks, deserve more exposure.
Guthrie has been involved in electronic music since 2006, having built relationships with local musicians by attending shows and networking. After years of releasing his own material, he started searching for Texas musicians to feature on the then-unrealized label with the intent of showcasing the southern electronic scene.
Eventually, around Record Store Day 2016, the TRU umbrella had its first release — a compilation EP titled Cyber_Tex, featuring tracks by local artists Cygnus, ERP, Vectorvision and Textasy. The record was received well, which prompted Guthrie to continue the label with its local selection.
“The idea of the concept for the label had been swimming in my head for multiple years as I’ve always been in awe of how many talented producers and DJs we have in our state,” Guthrie says via email. “Oftentimes, for a DJ/producer such as myself that’s been fortunate enough to have a fair amount of releases under one’s belt, the next logical step is to start a record label. I never had any interest in starting just any record label where I had the option of releasing music by anyone from anywhere. I always knew I wanted to limit myself to Texans.”
Clubs like Stereo Live, It’ll Do Club and Lizard Lounge prove that electronic music is not hard to find in Dallas. However, although there are numerous daily events that support the local scene, Dallas is not as recognized for its electronic scene as in cities like Detroit, New York or Chicago. TRU hopes to put Dallas on the radar by promoting the talent it already has on the same level to which artists in other cities are pushed.
“The goal is for them to have their voice heard by a larger audience,” Guthrie says. “Many of the artists on TRU are really only known in their hometown yet deserve to be heard by the rest of the world. TRU’s records can be purchased all over the United States, Europe, even in Asia. When a record-digger picks up a piece of vinyl with an outline of the state of Texas smattered all over it, their first reaction may be, ‘What do Texans know about electronic music?’ Once they put the needle on the groove and begin to listen, they soon realize, ‘Plenty.’”
Starting out playing guitar in middle school and high school garage bands, Guthrie grew up listening to guitar-based music more than anything. He got exposed to electronic music later on through friends in Denton. He notes two periods of music that influenced him: initially bands like the Faint, Gang Gang Dance and Aphex Twin attracted him; then he moved to “80s-based synth pop, new wave, industrial music and various electronic based horror soundtracks” that still influence him to this day.
“After those two periods, I began to soak up all things Detroit techno and Chicago house,” he says. “I’d search anywhere in the metroplex for records and began to grow my record collection and appreciation for pure dance music.”
That appreciation is also reflected in the treatment for artists who work with the label. Having had previous experience that separated him from the music-making process, Guthrie decided he wanted to do the opposite and offer musicians a mutual working relationship between label and artist.
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“I keep artists involved as much as I can for the entirety of the record-making process,” he says. “From its inception to talking about track selection, artwork, promotional ideas, reviewing test pressings, etc., they are involved every step of the way. Oftentimes in my experience with working with labels on my own records, I’m left in the dark and feel out of the loop. I want the artist to feel a part of the time-consuming yet exciting journey that is making an actual record. It’s quite a rewarding experience.”
Currently, Guthrie has about 500 demos to choose from for future release. The latest he’s chosen to release, Mirror Box’s debut EP, Minimal Compliance, comes out on Sept. 10. Mirror Box is the solo synth project of Dallas musician Sean Kirkpatrick of the Paper Chase and Nervous Curtains. Guthrie will host an album release party Sept. 15 at Double Wide, which will have him DJ along with Hampton Mills and will feature performances by Mirror Box, M'ress and Vectorvision. He continues to stay at work pushing local acts so they may gain more exposure, and he doesn’t see himself stopping any time soon.
“I expect to continue doing the same as I’ve done since the beginning and what’s enabled me to put out seven records to date,” he says, “compiling exciting and unique music from locals that deserves to be heard. I hope the label strengthens with each release and gains more momentum and exposure, thus continuing to attract more listenership and buyers. I hope to meet more and more DJs and producers along the way who work hard and have something unique to say musically. Luckily around here that’s an extremely easy thing to do.”
Mirror Box EP release party starts at 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 15 at Double Wide. Tickets are $10.